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giants

Giants

First a beautiful John Bauer illustration of a giant as big as a church tower and with a fist as strong as hard rock.



Jætte/Jätte/Jotun (related to the verb 'to eat', meaning 'big eater') or Rise (related to the German word riesig (enourmous) or Kæmpe/Kjempe, similar to the Norwegian bergtroll (mountain troll). These giants inhabited Scandinavia before the arrival of the humans and many natural phenomena were attributed to their actions. Deep holes in the mountain were called 'jættegryder' (Da. for "giants' pots") and the megalithic tombs one finds all over Denmark were called "jættehøje" (giants' hills). Big rocks near a church had always been thrown by some giant, but the fact that it never hit, supposedly showed the power of the Christian faith. One giant, Finn, even helped build the cathedral in Lund, Skåne, but often these giants tried to cheat their employers, eg. by not finishing the work after being paid.

louis moe giant ragnarok
(From Louis Moe's Ragnarok)

Acc. to Norse mythology the giants were the enemies of gods and humans and lived in Jotunheim, a northern part of Utgård, at the end of the world. To the east was the Iron Forest where a giant woman, Hyrrokin, gave birth to giants in wolf shape, Hate and Skoll, who chased the moon and sun to eat them. To the West on an island in the ocean lived the giant Ægir with his wife Ran who created disasters on the sea. The whole world had been created from body parts from the giant Ymer whose flesh became the soil, blood became the sea and lakes, the teeth became the mountains and the hair the forests.


Loke and Giants by H. E. Freund

Many stories exist of giants and trolls throwing enormous stones at each other or at churches - esp. the sound of church bells seemed to annoy them. Looking at stones like the one below from Denmark, left by the retreating glacier at the end of the last ice age, one understands why people in old days must have speculated about how such stones came to lie in the middle of a forest or a field far from any mountains:



And finally a drawing by Ivar Arosenius of what can happen when giants and humans meet:


(I. Arosenius, The Giant's Footprint)

Like trolls (esp. Icelandic ones), Giants could turn into rock, for example when exposed to the sun. Here is one painting of such an event when the giant loses his struggle:

svarstad giant loses struggle against the sun
(Anders Castus Svarstad (1869 - 1943), The Giant who in his Struggle against the Sun froze to a Mountain)

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